No one likes a sore loser. In some ways last night’s election was just another election, and we’ll have another one in four years. In fact, we are much more likely to see a Republican nominee that has the charisma of Barack Obama, but the principles of Calvin Coolidge. I’m throwing my hat in early for Marco Rubio.
Yet, I would by lying if I did not admit my concern for the future of the United States. With the country in such bad shape and so much disappointment in the president and our current political landscape, I thought Romney had a good chance. And the popular vote was extremely close. But a field of oddball candidates in the Republican primary made Mitt Romney the most sensible option, providing an easy target for Obama’s class warfare rhetoric.
A Romney presidency, according to Obama, would have led to a reverse in progress—an “on your own” society where the wealthy benefit at the cost of middle and lower class opportunity. Despite the many failures of the Obama administration, most Americans were willing to accept his message and give him a pass.
This election was the perfect measure of America’s attitudes towards business, wealth and the role of government. For four years Obama railed against income inequality, proposing that the federal government increase its role as the great leveler and distributor of opportunity. He argued that businesses and those who run them can only succeed if you lose. He suggested not only that people should give more to charity, drive cleaner cars and have a healthier diet, but that they should not be allowed to choose for themselves—government should force it upon them.
Americans had a chance to evaluate the debate, and made a few important judgments:
1) People deserve help through hard times, and an occasional boost to help them advance, even if it means other people are forced to bear the cost.
2) People should not have to face the full consequences of their mistakes, and do not necessarily deserve the rewards of their good judgment and hard work.
3) Government’s role is to promote virtue, health and leisure—from the national level—and liberty insofar as people are able make their own moral decisions.
4) Businesses operate on competitive profit maximization, which is antithetical to virtue, health and leisure.
In a sense, these are questions that reflect the foundational principles of republican (small “r”) government. At their core is a question of whether democracy is sustainable; whether government “of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” The results from last night are discouraging. To put it simply: if people are not ultimately held responsible for the decisions they make—which means they reap the rewards and consequences—society will begin to unravel and freedom will be short-lived. Don’t believe me? Try it in your own household and see what happens. How much worse among strangers.
America chose to continue down this experimental road. Some of my closest friends supported Obama’s reelection, so I am certainly not suggesting that Americans are stupid. Smart people can disagree about how society functions and what will lead to better outcomes, and I think we just made an erroneous decision.
The good news is that over the next four years we will have a better idea what Obama’s policies have done. His healthcare law will be in full effect, he will not be able to escape an 8-year record on the economy and foreign policy, and the specter of George W. Bush will no longer loom over the Republican party. And hopefully, Americans will have learned that being a good communicator has very little to do with being a good president.
But we have to change our culture. Conservatism and libertarianism are backed by strong arguments and should be partners in educating society on the principles of limited government and personal responsibility. They should also be partners politically. Libertarians should stop whining and segregating themselves. By refusing to work from the inside of the Republican party they simultaneously make the party less libertarian and make libertarians less effective. Read here for more on that.
We need donors to support organizations that advance the ideas of our Founders, not just in Washington, but throughout education and the media.
We need a message that communicates why a free society is a more virtuous, healthier and prosperous society. And we need people who can understand and articulate that message with clarity and creativity.
And Republicans absolutely must bridge the messaging gap with women and minorities. Policies alone do not fully explain the gap, so the problem has more to do with how we have presented our values. The failure, in my view, has been the inability of Republicans to connect their policies to values, and to connect those values to the concerns of the common person. We cannot stand for “liberty” just because we want to keep our money; we must show why liberty is the very cornerstone of equality and opportunity. We must go after crony capitalism and champion charity.
There is much work to be done on behalf of people like myself, not just to change the next election, but to change our cultural worldview.